GREENVILLE – The end of log driving days and the closing of wood mills has whittled down the population in northern Maine.
Aroostook County shrank from 106,064 in 1960 to 70,868 in 2012, according to the U.S. census.
And in Piscataquis County, home of Maine’s largest lake, the population has remained stagnant, with a reported 17,379 in 1960 and just 17,290 last year.
And so along the trails around Moosehead Lake — New England’s second largest — even at the height of tourist season, it’s quiet. Very quiet.
This is why forester turned real estate developer Hank McPherson has turned into an outdoor marketing director and is promoting the trail up Burnt Mountain, land he owns and wants the public to use.
Born and raised in Bangor, McPherson loves the Moosehead region. So after turning his 25-year-old timber harvest business into a land development operation a few years ago, McPherson is now promoting the region.
“We’re all really hoping tourism picks up. It’s the backbone of the economy here. Nobody wants to admit that, but it is,” McPherson said as he hiked up his mountain.
The signs he’s put in leading from the well-traveled Lily Bay Road to the base of Burnt Jacket Mountain make it easy for a first-time visitor here to find the parking area. From there it’s an easy 30-minute hike to the summit of Burnt Jacket, and well worth the trek.
McPherson points out an old growth hemlock stand, the flora around the summit and the pristine views.
It’s one of a series of hikes in the region that include Spencer Mountain, Mount Kineo and Gulf Hagus. But the Burnt Jacket summit is easy to get to, easy to bag and noteworthy for the views of Moosehead Lake.
“We’re not promoting this as a major attraction here. But on a fall day this is the kind of spot that can make you fall in love with Greenville. And it’s a great place to come for the sunsets,” McPherson said.
The views to the north and west are of a seemingly little-used lake. It’s much different from the state’s second largest lake to the south, where Sebago Lake rolls with sailboats, motorboats and kayaks all summer long.
By comparison, Moosehead, spanning 40 miles long and 20 miles wide, is about solitude and quiet, even at its busiest.
“People just don’t know about it. It’s quiet. There’s no crime. It’s kind of an unfound gem,” McPherson said.
And the best thing about the newly signed Burnt Jacket trail: It’s still lightly used.
While the canister at the top holds notes and testimonials from hikers hailing from Florida, Quebec and Connecticut, there is not a daily parade up to the top of the mountain.
Not what McPherson wants, but a reality that has kept Moosehead a quiet wilderness for the last half a century.
“The night sky is still so clear. There is no light infusion. You can see so much up here,” McPherson said.
Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: